Kimberley City Council has approved the first reading of the Official Community Plan (OCP), moving the plan one step forward as part of the formal bylaw review process.
The next step is for Council to host a public meeting where members of the public will be able to ask questions and provide input surrounding all aspects of the community plan. The public hearing is currently set for February 19, 2018 at Centennial Hall.
The current OCP dates back to 2005 and City Staff have been working on upgrading the plan for the past 18 months. As stated in the OCP document, an OCP is intended as a general statement of objectives and policies to guide planning and land use. The Province’s Local Government Act states that the OCP must include consideration of regional context to ensure that local objectives and values coordinate with regional goals and directions.
At a regular City Council meeting on Monday, Dec. 12, there was much contentious discussion around the zoning of the Marysville Bench Lands as part of the OCP.
Councillor Bev Middlebrook says there have been discussions around possible construction on the bench lands, and asked for clarification on how many lots could potentially be developed on those lands.
“[On] Monday it was subtly said that there would be ten lots of one acre,” said Middlebrook.
Mayor Don McCormick responded saying there could be as many as ten lots, however all of that is “to be determined in the future”, as there is no company that has or is committed to that particular land.
Middlebrook also says she would like a clearer picture of what the plan is for that land use, “that changes everything, noise levels, traffic levels, everything. It keeps changing, we want a clear picture of exactly what is being proposed if it goes that way.”
Councillor Kent Goodwin said he will not make a final decision on the OCP until after the public hearing takes place.
“The question at this level is, could you build anything there that would be acceptable? Can you imagine anything built on that land – any kind of light industry,” asked Goodwin. “Given that the trail on the edge [Volksmarch] will be be preserved and people will always have access to that… I wouldn’t necessarily support a particular business if I thought it didn’t fit, but we’re not there [in the process] yet.”
Councillor Darryl Oakley says that the OCP is a high level document and process, which should leave all options open.
“If someone, in a year, or two, or a decade down the road approaches the City, if we do ever get an environmental certificate on the land. Lets say ten years down the road, they want to do a development. Then you have to go through the process of looking at it as a Council. As far as I’m concerned, this high level process should leave all options open. This process tonight is to allow for that public meeting to get some feedback,” Oakley said.
Middlebrook then asked for clarification surrounding “mixed” land use.
“When I saw [the designation] industrial (mixed-trails), I questioned what mixed meant,” said Middlebrook. “I did not know that it meant industrial lands, commercial buildings or the potential for residential, and that should have been spelled out. That changes the whole picture again, and its important information for us to have.”
She also asked for clarification, as the OCP states that there will be an increase in land area designated for parks, recreation and open space.
Manager of Planning Services, Troy Pollock said, “it is a wide category: parks, recreation and open space, so some of that is simply passive open space that we aren’t identifying for future development.”
He says there are lands (in the previous OCP) designated for residential or other development uses, which has changed in the new OCP, as staff feel those particular lands are not suited for such uses. For example, hillsides and stream banks.
Councillor Albert Hoglund said he will vote for the first reading in order to reach the public hearing stage, however, “when it comes to the final vote, unless the designation changes from light industrial to the bench lands I won’t be voting for it.
“I honestly and truly believe that is not the best use for that area,” said Hoglund. “If somebody wants to come here and build light industrial, thats the only land we have available for it, but what are you going to do if five companies come to Kimberley and want land right now. Are we going to go to the people in Forest Crown and ask to change some of the residential zoning for light industrial? I don’t believe its the best usage for that land. The best usage for it was residential, in the old plan.”
Mayor Don McCormick says that the OCP is a very well defined, legislative process that focuses on the future of the community and various uses for land.
“Back when the mine was open and Cominco was the only industry in town, it was big. Nothing else mattered; having other industry, having a broader base,” said McCormick. “The average wage at the mine, at the time, was probably in excess of $100,000 a year. It was a place that had really well paying jobs, and there was no real expectation for the longest time that it would ever go away.”
But it did, McCormick says, and taking a look at the future of industry in town was never on the table. He says Council and staff are in a position now where they need to deal with that, and he doesn’t think there is anyone who would disagree that Kimberley needs a source of better paying jobs.
“Right now we are a service industry town with wages that run in the neighbourhood of $12 to $15 dollars an hour,” said McCormick. “We need to fix this somehow. It’s at a difficult time, with limited resources in the short term to make this happen. It’s all part of the process and at the end of the day, we, as elected officials [Council], must be open to persuasive arguments. One way or the other, on either side [of the issue].”
The Mayor says there isn’t anything that Council does that 100 per cent of people are going to agree on, however they need to take the overall long-term best interest of the community in mind when making decisions.
“We’re going through a process, a very defined process that every community goes through,” McCormick said. “It’s a legislative process and it’s meant for transparency. It’s meant to get public opinion and get at the root of what is in the best interest of the community. We just need to let this process play itself out.”